A Wet ‘n’ Wild introduction to Antalya rafting
We have barely had time to wet our feet when we are being urged to paddle fast into a churning cauldron of foaming white water. Waves crash over the bow of the boat, screams of joy (and possibly a little terror) ring around us as our plastic raft gets thrown around like a coin in a washing machine, teetering from side to side, a momentary hover in mid-air threatening to send us tumbling into the torrents before slapping us down wet but ecstatic. Miraculously we survive our first rapid with no casualties.
Rafting the Koprulu Canyon
Today my husband Jason, step-kids (Abbey, Sam and Holly) are rafting the Koprulu Canyon with CityDiscovery. The canyon is a verdant gorge, tucked in the shadows of the Taurus mountains, just a few hours from Antalya.
Leaving the suburbs of the city behind, we head into rural, farming landscape dotted with greenhouses, olive groves and orange orchards. As we climb into the hills, the mountains come into focus in the distance and the baked landscape opens before us eventually revealing the azure green waters of the canyon below.
Getting our rafting legs
Having made it safely through our first rapid, we experiment with the paddles, our lack of expertise evident as paddles clash haphazardly, elbows bang and we awkwardly knock into one another in our desperate frenzy to stay safely within the raft. Eventually, we find a rhythm and start to relax watching the rippling waters beneath the raft as we drift lazily in the current. There’s little alongside the river – just a few random restaurants, some locals bathing and the occasional glimpse of a shimmering minaret in the distance.
Nothing to do but enjoy the scenery and take it all in. Oh, well that and occasionally paddle like a mad banshee in our quest to overcome the raging waters intent on swallowing us whole.
We have six rapids to navigate over the course of three hours, none greater than a grade II, and in the lulls between, hoards of rafts packed with squealing tourists engage in vigorous water fights, paddles thrashing the water in a frenzy, whipping up whirlwinds of water around and above us.
Despite being thoroughly sodden by now, each fresh glacial blast of water has us shrieking, trying desperately to slam our paddles into the water to fight off the onslaught. I find myself momentarily blinded on more than one occasion as the force of the water dislodges my contact lens.
A bridge too high
Less a bridge rather than a high jump is our first stop. Enterprising locals greet us with the tantalising aroma of thick nan bread encasing potatoes and cheese, sweetcorns grilling on charcoal and ice-cold drinks including beer. Frankly, I think I would be rapid bait if I were to indulge in a beer at this stage of the trip.
A makeshift high jump perches above the water and whooping and hollering tourists take a quick run and leap into the cool waters, simultaneously trying to pose for the cameraman. Take note the crocodile is not real!
A luncheon feast
A little further downriver, lunch is served at our morning rendez-vous. After our earlier briefing, we had re-boarded the buses to our raft disembarkation point by a narrow gorge underneath the Roman Oluklu Bridge.
There, we wandered through the woods to wade into the water and jump on-board our raft. After descending around 7km we return to a lunch of chicken kebabs, rice, potato salad and pasta. It’s delicious and the organisation is impressive considering there must be at least a hundred people rafting today.
I have to confess I was slightly worried by the numbers at the outset imagining it might be bedlam but it is anything but. The rafting company have planned the day to perfection, with orderly queues of happy rafters snaking their way from each table in turn, by invitation from the staff.
Each guide fetches drinks for the table and then takes a quick break to eat. There’s plenty of time for a quick refresher, sunbathing and toilet breaks.
A lost passenger
Back on the water, we descend another rapid, and Hussein takes us all by surprise launching himself down the raft and diving into the swirling waters ahead. So entranced are we that we fail to notice that Abbey has fallen over the side of the raft. Coughing and spluttering she descends into the clear waters, eventually bobbing to the surface life jacket around her neck and helmet all a kilter. (Note, the company provide life jackets but if you are a serious water bunny and would like your own, check out these life jacket options.)
Still oblivious to her plight, we eventually spot her drifting alongside laughing and leave Hussein to tug her unceremoniously to the boat where she is hoisted up by the lads and, ‘slops into the raft like a big whale’ (Abbey’s description, not mine!). We all have our undignified moments, Holly sliding across the raft floor as a wave knocks her off-balance, me landing hard in the middle following misunderstood orders and Sam getting repeatedly tapped on the head for being asleep.
A ‘sometimes’ lazy river
The day passes in a mixture of heightened focus as we hurtle through each set of rapids, and more leisurely moments where we jump into the water with a splash to escape the sweltering heat.
Floating down the river on our backs we almost miss the gurgle of one approaching rapid and have to quickly haul one another on-board, plopping ungainly into the bottom of the boat with legs and feet splaying in all directions, hands grabbing unceremoniously for paddles to secure our descent over the rocky bottom.
Hussein entertains us throughout with acrobatics, innocent flirting, joking and foolery. He has our group in peals of laughter at his antics, no more so than when he coquettishly suggests to my husband that I am behaving towards him inappropriately!!
Nearing the end of the afternoon, he appears to take a young girl hostage from another raft. She doesn’t look too concerned and neither are we!
Save the best for last
All too soon, we find ourselves approaching our last rapid with a particularly steep descent. We nervously watch the rafts in front advance through the narrow section of river, bows raised almost vertically, passengers tumbling into the waters, and loud screams accompanying the roaring of the foaming waters.
We paddle furiously into the torrents of water, with waves smashing over us the raft rears its head high, my husband tumbles unceremoniously into my lap and yet more squeals and laughter emanate from the boat.
Photo image courtesy of Dallas Rafting
What an awesome day of rafting in Koprulu Canyon. Hussein was definitely a larger than life character who kept us entertained with his antics and rescued the damsel in distress (not really!) @abbeyslaterr when she tumbled out in the Rapids. A wet n wild day indeed! #Antalya #Turkey #citydiscovery #rafting #travel #travelblogger #travelblog
Our raft rights and we smugly pat ourselves on the back. Little do we realise there is still one more adrenaline moment in store as we approach the bank, navigating a path around a digger clearing rubble from the waterway. It swivels at the last moment, its huge metal cradle swinging perilously in our direction, narrowly missing our raft but sending a wall of water careering into us. More screams followed by joy at having survived.
The words of my step-son Sam chatting to Hussein come to mind. Hussein is cheekily suggesting he has forgotten his girl-friend’s name. Sam is a man of few words and his dry reply ‘it’s happened to us all’ resonates with my thought for the day.
White water rafting in Koprulu Canyon is one tour that we should all experience.
It’s a fantastic value day out with lunch and transfers included. You can book directly with CityDiscovery from £17.56. It is worth every penny for ‘the best day out I’ve ever had’ according to Abbey and I’m inclined to agree with her.
Have your say
Have you been white water rafting in Antalya? What did you think? Maybe you have rafted elsewhere and would like to share your recommendations below. Don’t be shy….
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Disclaimer: we rafted courtesy of CityDiscovery but my views are honest and unedited. This truly was a magnificent day with perfect organisation, especially considering the numbers on the river. Thanks to Hussein especially for keeping us entertained! We had an absolute ball!